Over the summer Google launched it’s Google+ service. It’s a social media service that integrates user postings, photos, groups (which Google calls Circles) and real-time video chatting (called Hangouts). When Google+ launched there was a lot of conversation about how librarians and educators might integrate it into their work. Here’s an overview of some of the features with ideas on how they might be used:
- Circles may be my favorite part of Google+. The reason? Because I can put groups of people together in a circle and then connect with just those people when I want to start a conversation or have a Hangout. Circles are really easy to create and those you connect with in Google+ can be in more than one Circle. In a library you might create a circle for different groups of teens. Perhaps one circle for teens who are members of the teen advisory board and another circle for those interested in anime. Or a circle of colleagues that like to talk about technology and another circle just for those who are interested in steampunk.
- Streams are where the conversations between those in your circles take place. When writing something for your stream it’s possible to select who gets to read the post and you can select more than one circle, or simply send to all those that follow you on Google+. A favorite part of streams is that conversations can easily take place within a particular post. People can reply to a post you write which provides great opportunities for talking about a variety of topics with colleagues or teens. An added bonus is that it’s easy to edit a post if you realize that there’s a typo or you think you can articulate an idea more clearly if revised.
- Photos was well described on Mashable when Google+ first launched: “The most important feature of Photos, though, is the ability to upload photos and create albums. By clicking the giant ‘Upload New Photos’ button at the top right, you can create a photo album by simply dragging and dropping photos into your browser. Once created, you can share that album with your circles, with individual friends or with the public. Albums remain private until you share them.” Google+ photos becomes an easy way to post photos from library programs and make them accessible to a small or large group of people.
- Hangouts is another Google+ feature (along with Circles) that has a lot of potential for librarians and teens. Hangouts is a quick and easy way to have a video chat with up to 9 other people. I’ve used Hangouts quite a bit since Google+ launched and the quality of the video and audio is high. The best way to start a Hangout is to put a circle of participants together and then invite that circle to the Hangout. (If you simply invite each participant on their own then the Hangout isn’t private and others might join unexpectedly.) Imagine you do have a circle of teens who help you plan anime programs, you could simply start a Hangout and invite them to join. Then you can get some work done even if the teens are not in the library. Hangouts include a chat feature and the ability to watch YouTube videos together. Imagine watching anime with your anime circle while you plan a library program in a Google+ Hangout.
There are some items I have on my wish list for Google+. It would be great if there was Google Docs integration (Being able to work on a Doc with colleagues while in a Hangout would be fantastic) and it would also be useful if Google allowed for organizations to setup Plus accounts. (I’ve heard that both are in the works.)
When Google+ launched there were lots of how-to articles and articles about the service in education. Three to get started with are:
- First Night With Google Plus: This is Very Cool
- Google Plus: Is This the Social Tool Schools Have Been Waiting For?
- Why Google+ is an Education Game Changer
Are you using Google+ with colleagues or teens? If so, what are some ways you are using it? Let us know in the comments.